Trans-Tasman families are set for a second-consecutive Christmas apart as the New Zealand government opts against a border reopening to Australia this year.
Under long-awaited changes to NZ's managed isolation and quarantine - or MIQ - regime, arrivals from next month will need to spend seven days in quarantine rather than 14.
While travellers from low-risk countries - such as Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu and Tokelau - will bypass MIQ altogether from November 8, Australian travellers have missed out.
In an abandonment of the Australia-first policy that led to the trans-Tasman bubble, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the timeline for expanding quarantine-free travel further is "early 2022".
"Even if you have a wildfire, it doesn't mean it's okay to go around striking matches," she said.
"That is the way we have to think about the border, there's cumulative risk."
The government has opted against allowing fully-vaccinated travellers from Australia to skip quarantine - for now - and is focused on introducing a new traffic light system with vaccine certificates, which will allow additional freedoms to double-dosed Kiwis.
That switch will take place when all of NZ's 20 regional health districts get 90 per cent of their eligible population vaccinated.
As of Thursday, 72 per cent are fully vaccinated and 87 per cent have received their first jab.
After introducing the traffic light system, the government will decide whether it is safe to open to fully-vaccinated travellers.
COVID-19 Minister Chris Hipkins said Australia's state border reopenings increased the risk factor for NZ.
"The challenge with Australia is they are going through the process of opening up their internal borders," he said.
"Of course we want to reconnect with Australia soon, as soon as we can do that safely. We're just not in a position to provide any certainty as to when that can happen at this point."
Mr Hipkins said he understood the plight of overseas-based Kiwis.
"We're very aware of the pressure that's been building the border as the world begins to reconnect and increasing numbers of New Zealanders, here and abroad, that want to be able to reconnect with their loved ones," he said.
"We don't want to accelerate the spread of COVID-19 outside Auckland by prematurely making changes to the international border. Once we get those high rates of vaccination, at that point, you'll start to see quite a bit more change at the border."
The switch to seven-day quarantine will take effect on November 14.
Overseas-based New Zealanders will find some relief from that change, which will allow 2000 more Kiwis to visit home this year.
There were 89 community cases identified by health officials on Thursday, with two in Christchurch ending a 358-day virus-free run for the South Island's biggest city.
Australian Associated Press